U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack continues to state that furloughs are the only way to accomplish the savings required. Lawmakers have been questioning why the executive branch didn’t have its ducks in a row to avoid furloughs that impact life, health or safety. The issue is the expected furloughing of meat and poultry inspectors. The furloughs would limit or halt meat inspections – which USDA says would result in 10-billion dollars in production losses and more than 400-million dollars in lost wages to employees. Vilsack says there is still time for Congress and the White House to mitigate the impact of the automatic spending cuts. He says the cuts will take time to be felt throughout agriculture and the U.S. economy.
But he says there is no flexibility to move money around because of the way Congress structured the sequester. For example – he can’t shift money from rural development programs to avoid cuts in food safety. Without much optimism Congress will act to prevent the department from implementing its cuts – Vilsack says he must prepare to make them. He says the reductions will have a significant impact on agriculture – reducing the amount of money USDA can loan to producers, leading to cuts in conservation programs and curtailing exports to the tune of about 500-million dollars.
Source: NAFB News service